Guayaquil, Ecuador, March 30, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) denounced the killing of a second member of the political organization in the southern border state of Apure.
“Less than three months after the murder of communist militant and popular communicator José Urbina in Apure, our comrade and PCV social leader Juan de Dios Hernández has been kidnapped and murdered,” stated the party’s secretary-general Óscar Figuera on Tuesday via Twitter.
The National Assembly (AN) deputy added that the two communist militants “were active in the same PCV cell and have been killed in the same region”, where deadly clashes between the Venezuelan armed forces and Colombian irregular armed groups have gone on since last year.
Figuera demanded that the Attorney's General Office open an "exhaustive" investigation on the PCV activists' murders that have taken place in the border area as well as that government authorities publicly address the issue.
"Enough institutional silence and denying justice for PCV murdered militants," concluded Figuera about this year’s second killing.
According to Juan García, coordinator of the right-wing human rights NGO FundaREDES in Apure, PCV social leader Juan de Dios Hernández was reportedly kidnapped on March 25 by irregular armed forces in Puerto Páez, in the Pedro Camejo Municipality where he lived. The body was found two days later.
Throughout the year, PCV authorities have denounced that its activists are targets of constant threats and harassment from Venezuelan security forces, Colombian armed groups, including guerrilla factions and criminal organizations involved in cross-border fuel and drug smuggling.
Hernández’s assassination took place only three months after PCV member José Gregorio Urbina was killed on January 10. The leftist organization detailed that the community leader was shot dead “by unidentified people in his home” located in Puerto Páez as well.
Previously, Urbina had warned about receiving public threats from the commander of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) Ramón Sánchez after revealing alleged false positives cases orchestrated by the military amidst confrontations with Colombian groups in Apure.
“He [Sánchez] is responsible for everything that is happening in this area [Puerto Páez] and I blame him for any attack against my physical integrity or any other person from this town. We do not want more abuses. We want these fraudulent [military] commissions to leave,” condemned Urbina shortly before his death in a video published by the PCV on its Twitter account.
Urbina was also the director of the community radio station Frontera 92.5 FM in Puerto Páez. According to PCV’s Apure executive secretary Franklin González, the popular activist was at the forefront of the struggle against alleged “human rights violations and other abuses committed by [Venezuelan] security forces as well as by irregular [Colombian] groups in Puerto Páez.”
Venezuela’s judicial authorities have yet to announce the opening of an investigation into Hernández and Urbina’s killings.
This year’s assassinations of PCV militants were followed by a report from Human Rights Watch published on Monday after a visit to the Colombian province of Arauca, next to Apure. The NGO wrote that the end of a truce between Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) and another rebel group known as the Joint Eastern Command in January led to renewed clashes, abductions, murders and the forced displacement of thousands.
Military operations in the porous 2,200-kilometer Colombia-Venezuela border are not uncommon with the area traditionally being a hub for insurgent groups fighting the Colombian state and cross-border criminal operations such as drug and fuel smuggling.
In early January, Venezuela’s armed forces reinforced their presence in the area with soldiers, airplanes, helicopters and armored trucks after popular organizations denounced an incursion from irregular armed Colombian groups.
However, the presence of state forces and irregular groups has repeatedly caused violence to flare up. In April and May last year heavy clashes left at least sixteen Venezuelan soldiers and dozens of armed Colombians dead, prompting Caracas to seek mediation from the United Nations (UN). The clashes also led to allegations of human rights abuses from both sides.
The Venezuelan government has blamed imported “imperialist agents” for the border region’s violence. President Nicolás Maduro said Venezuela’s soldiers were battling “armed drug-running terrorist groups, better known as TANCOL, who have been trained and financed in Colombia.” The mandatary vowed to “clear the country of TANCOL” in 2022.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Caracas.